Themed Resort Hotelsby Brian Bennett, contributing writer
Back in July, when I decided I was going to write-up a photo tour of the Nickelodeon Family Suites (link), it dawned on me that there are several other themed resorts in the Orlando area besides the well-known Disney resorts.
For example, most visitors to Central Florida know about the themed resorts over at Universal Studios: the Portofino Bay Hotel, the Royal Pacific Hotel, and the Hard Rock Hotel. Each is themed very nicely, although I must admit to a strong personal opinion that the Portofino Bay Hotel is by far the best of the three (we can run photo tours of those resorts if you are interested).
Even if we set the Universal resorts aside with the Disney resorts, there are still additional themed resorts in the Kissimmee area nestled along the Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway, better known as the 192 strip. In today's photo tour, let's take a look at them.
Located about eight miles east of World Drive, the Viking Motel right on Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway certainly is dressed up to match the motel's theme. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The Viking Motel includes a "Fortress" tower. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Even the wall of the Viking Motel is decorated with theming. Photo by Brian Bennett.
About three miles closer to Walt Disney World, the Magic Castle Motel incorporates some exterior theming. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Only three miles from Walt Disney World, the Quality Suites Disney World Resort Hotel has a strong New Orleans Mardi Gras theme. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The King of Fools statue is a familiar site for folks driving east away from Walt Disney World. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The building exterior of the Quality Suites has some New Orleans theming, and its entryway has an even stronger French Quarter styling. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The resort's check-in area includes a King of Fools statue, while the wall behind the counter is decorated with paintings of masked revelers. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The best of the bunch, in my opinion, is the Sheraton Safari Resort located on SR 535. The hotel is just a few blocks west of the Crossroads Shopping Center, which anchors the entrance to WDW's Hotel Plaza Boulevard. The details at the Sheraton Safari (which predates Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge by several years) are pretty decent. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The Sheraton Safari Resort lobby has a lot of African atmosphere. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The courtyard and pool area of Sheraton Safari Resort, however, is where this resort shines. Photo by Brian Bennett.
This small water feature provides a beautiful addition to the view. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Even the resort's garbage receptacles are themed á la Disney. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The pool bar sports another beautiful thatched roof. Painted walkways add color, while thatched roofs used throughout the resort add a touch of atmosphere. Photo by Brian Bennett.
And the refreshing pool area is decorated with images of wildlife from Africa. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The pool slide, too, is themed as a snake. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Just off the lobby, the stone-covered columns add more ambience. Photo by Brian Bennett.
The resort's restaurant is strongly themed. Photo by Brian Bennett.
And the lounge provides a wild place to knock down some adult refreshment. Photo by Brian Bennett.
Although these resorts pale in comparison to the Disney and Universal resorts, they do offer accommodations in the Orlando area at a much lower price point... but with some nice attention to detail.